Mark’s story

25 years old, Waberthwaite near Ravenglass

Where did you grow up?

Waberthwaite, West Cumbria.

What did you study in higher education?

Medicinal Chemistry at Newcastle University.

Why did you decide on this subject / area?

As I approached year 13 I found myself enjoying my chemistry lessons a lot more than the others. After speaking to my teachers I began researching different university courses on the UCAS website, which provided links to the university websites and made it a lot easier to narrow down universities. My teachers pointed out to me that I didn’t simply have to study Physics or Chemistry, but there were a lot of different courses out there that could be right for me. During my research I came across a Medicinal Chemistry course, which linked my newfound love for chemistry with my desire to work in the medical field.  

Why did you decide on this university?

We had received a few talks from Newcastle University‘s outreach team and I had friends who had really enjoyed their time there. After more research with my friends in the library, the other four universities I chose were; Liverpool, Hull, Nottingham and Leeds. Once I had finalised my choices, I booked open day visits for each university. These were extremely helpful and I would advise anyone to go; I was able to get a real feel for the place I would study and live for the next four years. The three places that stood out for me were Leeds, Hull and Newcastle. I remember really liking Leeds as a city and being very impressed with the campus and the chemistry department. However, once I visited Newcastle I just fell in love with the place and could really see myself there. 

I was invited to a weeklong summer school at Newcastle University which was a great taster of what being a university students was like. I stayed in halls of residence and had the opportunity to make new friends and familiarise myself with the city. The whole experience made me want to go to university more. I had several assignments to complete on the summer school, and once I had passed these I was offered a conditional offer with two grades lower than the advertised grade requirements, so my original offer of AAB was reduced to BBB. This was a bit of weight off my shoulders and I would encourage anybody else to do something similar if they have the opportunity. 

Has your career / education taken any unexpected turns?

My path to higher education was not always clear. When I began my GCSEs, it had always crossed my mind, but I was never too sure on the idea. This was mainly due to the increased media coverage on topics such as ‘student debt’. As I progressed in my GCSE studies I warmed to the idea of joining the RAF. Some close friends of mine were beginning their application process and began to inform me about all of the perks when joining. 

I then attended my local RAF office with my friend, who was also considering joining at the time, to gain more information about the medic role. The role only required me to have GCSEs which I had almost completed, however I decided to study for my A Levels to increase my chances of a better role in the future.

 What did you study at sixth form / college? 

At the time I had the desire to work in a medical profession; this influenced my subject choices coupled with my enjoyment of the subjects. This resulted in my choosing Maths, Physics and Chemistry. 

What support did you get?

My worries about student finance were addressed by my sister, who was in the process of applying for university, and outreach teams who had visited my school and who provided me with important information on the subject that had not been explained well in the media. After this I was highly driven to do well in my A Levels so I could attend university to study physics.

What advice would you give to someone from your area?

University was a fantastic experience where I was able to learn so much. I not only deepened my knowledge into chemistry, but I was able to learn many life lessons along the way. I was able to meet people with the same love of darts that I had, and I was elected president of the darts club. My advice to anyone considering Higher Education would be to do your research and gain as much information from others as possible; without those two factors I may not have had my journey and I would not change it for the world.  

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